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A brown, chunky little chap, with a long body, short legs, not enough neck to hang him, and such long arms that if his ankles itch he can scratch them without stooping.

Philip Henry Sheridan, was a career U.S. Army officer and a union general in the  Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general due to his close association with  Grant, who transferred Sheridan from the quartermaster corps in the Western Theater to lead the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac in the East.

In 1864, he defeated Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley and his destruction of the economic infrastructure of the Valley, called “The Burning” by residents, was one of the first uses of scorched earth tactics in the war. The people should be informed that so long as an army can subsist among them recurrences of these raids must be expected, and we are determined to stop them at all hazards. … Give the enemy no rest … Do all the damage to railroads and crops you can. Carry off stock of all descriptions, and negroes, so as to prevent further planting. If the war is to last another year, we want the Shenandoah Valley to remain a barren waste.

Despite a decidely chequered career with as many mistakes as victories and thanks in equal parts to Grant’s patronage and the  famous poem, Sheridan’s Ride, written by Thomas Buchanan Read and credited with helping Lincoln win re-election in 1864 [although this had already be assured by wholesale vote stealing]. He survived in the post war army by supporting Juarez against Maximilian and leading the military occupation of Texas and Louisiana where he severely limited voter registration for former Confederates and then required that only registered voters (mostly black) be eligible to serve on juries. He was finally replaced by the president who found, His rule has, in fact, been one of absolute tyranny, without references to the principles of our government or the nature of our free institutions.

It is no wonder he said, If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell, but friendship with Grant had is privledges and he would go on to serve in the wars against the Indians. Repeating his civil war tactics he attacked the Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche tribes in their winter quarters, taking their supplies and livestock and killing those who resisted, driving the rest back into their reservations. He then sought to exterminate the Indians by exterminating the bison saying, Let them kill, skin and sell until the buffalo is exterminated.

His most lasting bit of wisdom was his reponse to Comanche Chief Tosawi who, when he told Sheridan in 1869, Me Tosawi. Me good Indian, received the reply, The only good Indians I ever saw were dead. Succeeding Sherman as Commanding General of the U.S. Army in 1883 he held that position until he died in 1888.

Sheridan’s lieutenants : Phil Sheridan, his generals, and the final year of the Civil War Wilmington, DE : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, c 2005      David Coffey Sheridan, Philip Henry, 1831-1888 Military leadership Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xxx, 175 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 159-162) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Photograph showing Generals Wesley Merritt, Philip Sheridan, George Crook, James William Forsyth, and George Armstrong Custer around a table examining a document…Library of Congress photo

In 1864, General U. S. Grant summoned thirty-three-year-old Major General Philip Sheridan to lead George Gordon Meade‘s cavalry in the resilient yet seemingly lethargic Army of the Potomac.

Philip Henry Sheridan making his famous ride from Winchester…Library of Congress print

Sheridan’s fiery determination and uncompromising demand for performance quickly gained him the upper hand against Confederate cavalry forces in Virginia. He surrounded himself with men who could deliver glory and victory, including George A. Custer, George Crook, and Wesley Merritt. Together, they directed the most potent fighting force during the war’s final year and went on to influence the Army into the twentieth century.

Major General George Armstrong Custer of 2nd Regular Army Cavalry Regiment, 5th Regular Army Cavalry Regiment, Aide-de-Camp U.S. Volunteers Infantry Regiment, and General Staff U.S. Volunteers Infantry Regiment, in uniform…Library of Congress photo

In this exciting new work, David Coffey tells the compelling story of Sheridan and his lieutenants—exploring their relationships and examining their roles in the Civil War and beyond.

Portrait of Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt, officer of the Federal Army…Library of Congress photo

As he takes the reader through the battles of 1864 and 1865, Coffey provides a unique insight into the formation of the martial brotherhood that dominated the American military establishment for almost forty years.

Gen. George Crook, U.S.A….Library of Congress photo

Thomas Buchanan Read. 1822–1872

Sheridan’s Ride

UP from the South at break of day,
Bringing to Winchester fresh dismay,
The affrighted air with a shudder bore,
Like a herald in haste, to the chieftain’s door,
The terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar,             5
Telling the battle was on once more,
And Sheridan twenty miles away.

And wider still those billows of war,
Thundered along the horizon’s bar;
And louder yet into Winchester rolled      10
The roar of that red sea uncontrolled,
Making the blood of the listener cold,
As he thought of the stake in that fiery fray,
And Sheridan twenty miles away.

But there is a road from Winchester town,      15
A good, broad highway leading down;
And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night,
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight,
As if he knew the terrible need;      20
He stretched away with his utmost speed;
Hills rose and fell; but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

Still sprung from those swift hoofs, thundering South,
The dust, like smoke from the cannon’s mouth;      25
Or the trail of a comet, sweeping faster and faster,
Foreboding to traitors the doom of disaster.
The heart of the steed, and the heart of the master
Were beating like prisoners assaulting their walls,
Impatient to be where the battle-field calls;      30
Every nerve of the charger was strained to full play,
With Sheridan only ten miles away.

Under his spurning feet the road
Like an arrowy Alpine river flowed,
And the landscape sped away behind      35
Like an ocean flying before the wind,
And the steed, like a barque fed with furnace ire,
Swept on, with his wild eyes full of fire.
But lo! he is nearing his heart’s desire;
He is snuffing the smoke of the roaring fray,      40
With Sheridan only five miles away.

The first that the general saw were the groups
Of stragglers, and then the retreating troops;
What was done? what to do? a glance told him both,
Then, striking his spurs, with a terrible oath,      45
He dashed down the line ‘mid a storm of huzzas,
And the wave of retreat checked its course there, because
The sight of the master compelled it to pause.
With foam and with dust the black charger was gray;
By the flash of his eye, and the red nostril’s play,      50
He seemed to the whole great army to say,
“I have brought you Sheridan all the way
From Winchester, down to save the day!”

Hurrah! hurrah for Sheridan!
Hurrah! hurrah for horse and man!      55
And when their statues are placed on high,
Under the dome of the Union sky,
The American soldier’s Temple of Fame;
There with the glorious general’s name,
Be it said, in letters both bold and bright,      60
“Here is the steed that saved the day,
By carrying Sheridan into the fight,
From Winchester, twenty miles away!”


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